Divisional Playoff Preview: Jaguars at Steelers

Cincinnati Bengals v Jacksonville Jaguars

Curry reminded the room packed with people wearing teal and black that the Jaguars can defeat the Steelers, pointing to Jacksonville's 30-9 win over Pittsburgh back in October.

By just about any statistic that you would care to come up with, the Jacksonville Jaguars finished with the best pass defense in the National Football League during the 2017 regular season.

The question is, can they do it again? It will have to win at the point of attack for the Jags - barring some momentous Pittsburgh turnovers - to pull the upset. But much has changed for both teams since that point, and Thomas has emerged as an even more risky target in a Pro Bowl season. An argument could be made that the Steelers defense is just as good - if not better - than the Bills defense.

"They are the best team", said former Tampa Bay Bucs QB Chris Simms. In that game, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger had one of the worst games of his career, throwing five interceptions, including two that the Jaguars returned for touchdowns. The Steelers nearly went undefeated over the final 11 games of the season, suffering their only loss to the New England Patriots because of a controversial call. On his other 27 carries, he gained 91 yards (3.4 ypc). Obviously, he believes it was just a flat-out fluke that he threw five picks and two pick 6s in that game and he wants to show the world he ain't that guy. If those interceptors had been tackled, are we sure the Jags' offense even scores points?

Ben Roethlisberger stunk against this secondary. The Jags can't count on it happening again. Brown was sent home from practice on Friday due to the illness. Look for Bortles to attack the Steelers in the middle of the field where linebacker Ryan Shazier used to be. That makes for a great matchup against the NFL's No. 1 pass defense. He is not the strongest run defender and does get caught looking into the backfield, so this is not the best matchup for him. Even the last time out against the Steelers, Bortles only had 95 yards passing, nine yards rushing and threw an interception. Not awesome enough to overcome the crappiness of Blake Bortles under center, though.

Bortles will have full complimentary of receivers when Jacksonville's travels to Heinz Field. The forecast calls for a calmer day, but the temperature also is expected to be in the teens, perhaps not the best conditions for a quarterback who has played his entire pro and college career for teams in Florida.

Hargrave downplayed the significance of suddenly missing a practice three days before a playoff game.

To combat the fearsome Jacksonville pass defense, the Steelers will need to lean on first team All-Pro running back Le'Veon Bell. Their six yards per pass attempt allowed? So Fournette could be a big factor. Fournette rushed for 181 yards, including a 90-yard touchdown run, in the first meeting against the Steelers. The Steelers managed just three field goals on 12 offensive possessions.

Jacksonville is 11-5 ATS in their last 16 games against the AFC and 6-2 ATS in their last 8 games following a game where they failed to cover the spread while the over is 4-0 in their last 4 games following a win.

I haven't done the necessary legwork, but it's safe to assume that nobody in this life (or the next life) loves anything more than The Good Place's Jason Mendoza (Manny Jacinto) loves Blake Bortles and the Jacksonville Jaguars.

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